- SMBs As a Group Will Continue To Not Get SEO
A little over a year ago, my dentist moved his office but never thought about updating his listing in Google Maps, Apple Maps or his website. I showed him how to fix the issue, but this morning on the way to my end of the year teeth cleaning, not only was his old location back on Apple Maps, but he had also decided to change his business name from Joseph A. Grasso DDS to San Ramon Valley Cosmetic & Family Dentistry (perhaps for SEO reasons?), but had not bothered to update either his GMB or Apple Maps listings, let alone his Facebook page or any other citations. I mentioned this to his receptionist. Her response was “Wow, I didn’t know anything about that stuff.” I envisioned my kids’ future tuition bills and sighed with relief.
- Voice Search Will Continue To Be YUGE, But So What?
We keep seeing reports of how everyone is increasing their use of voice search to find information and buy stuff. Outside of being the default app for specific type of query on the various assistants, the end result is still often position #1 or #0 for a Google SERP. For local businesses this means you’ll want to be #1 or #0 for relevant local queries, and if there’s an app (e.g. Apple Maps, Yelp, etc.) that shows up in that position, then you’ll want to be #1 in those apps. Kind of like the way local search has been working for years…
- Some Of Your Clients May Actually Ask For Bing SEO Help
If people are asking Alexa a lot more questions, per the previous prediction, Microsoft’s Cortana recently announced integration with Alexa may lead to more Bing results surfacing via Alexa. So those clients who have a data issue on Bing and the CEO happens to hear their kids looking for their business using Cortana on Alexa might send you that urgent message for “Bing SEO ASAP!” OK, we know – we just needed an extra prediction to get the right number for an Instant Answer result…
- Google My Business Posts Will Be Where The Action Is
Since the roll out of GMB Posts, we have been calling them “the biggest gift to SEO agencies in years.” The ability to add minimal content to appear on a business’ GMB/Knowledge Panel that can attract clicks, most of which are from brand queries, and show clients how these impact performance will be hard to resist for most agencies that are currently blogging for their clients and praying someone cares about their 250-500 words of cheaply written brilliance. Expect GMB posts to be standard in most Local SEO packages, until of course Google deprecates them later this year. Bonus Prediction!: And while we are on the subject of GMB, I expect to see a lot more functionality, and promotion thereof, poured into this service. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a Super Bowl ad this year that shows how a business uses all Google services (websites, GMB messages, Q&A, Local Service Ads, GMB Post Videos, Reviews, etc.) to run its business and get customers.
- Retailers Will Invest More In Local SEO
Google will continue to cannibalize SERPs with ads and “owned and operated” content such as GMB (which is basically training wheels for ads) making it easy for brands to increase their ad spend to eye-popping levels. Sooner or later multi-location brands who are tired of having to re-buy their customers every week will realize that for about 1% of their Google Ads budget, they can make a serious dent in their organic traffic and revenue. Topics like rebuilding their store locators, rewriting location pages, local linkbuilding and GMB optimization (including feeding real-time inventory to GMB) will no longer cause the CMO’s eyes to glaze over.
- Links Will Still Be The Biggest Line Item In Your Local SEO Budget
There are only so many ways you can publish the best content about how to hire a personal injury attorney, before and after bunion surgery photos, or local SEO predictions. I am sure there are some cases where E-A-T trumps links, but sooner or later, in 2019 we will all need a link or two, or twenty…
- We Will See More Consolidation In Local Listings & Review Management
While the business has become somewhat commodified, there is just too much value to owning the customer relationship attached to thousands of locations. Yext appears to be continuing its focus on high-value verticals (healthcare & financial services), international expansion to serve global brands and adding related functionality like Yext Brain. Over the past year, Uberall gobbled up NavAds and Reputation.com grabbed SIMPartners. Any big digital agency serving global multi-location brands sooner or later will want to own this functionality. Look for Asia to be a big growth area for these services.
And I Wouldn’t Be Surprised If One Or More Of The Review Management StartUps Gets Acquired
While online review management feels like something of a commodity, kind of like listings management, it’s also a great gateway drug for multi-location brands & SMBs to eventually buy more of your services. I recall Ted Paff, founder of CustomerLobby, once telling me “the value of review management is trending towards $0.” Of course, that was right before he sold CL to EverCommerce and took off to Nepal to find his Chi. Fast-growing services with review management and related services that are not trending towards $0 are prime targets. Keep an eye on Broadly, BirdEye, Podium, GatherUp, NearbyNow and others.
- Google Search Console Will Specify Local Pack Rankings In The Performance Report
Yeah, right. But maybe, just maybe, we’ll get regex filtering?
- Apple Maps Will Continue To Be The Biggest Local Search Platform Everyone Ignores
Apple made a big deal in 2018 about its new map platform and while it is exciting to have more vegetation detail, Apple still shows little sign of giving a shit about its business data. In the four years since Maps Connect launched, the functionality for businesses to control their Apple Maps profiles has barely changed. While I find Apple Maps generally fine to use (except for that time it led me straight into a dumpster in San Francisco), I still see plenty of people criticizing it. At some point perhaps Apple will realize that businesses and their agencies can help make Apple Maps much better. It would be great if we could get actual analytics, ability to enhance profiles, true bulk account management, etc., but I am skeptical that will happen in 2019.
- Amazon Will Not Buy Yelp!
But if the stock price goes below $25, it seems like there’s a private equity play here. cc: David Mihm.
So in 2019, Local SEO will pretty much look like this: